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‘Miserable Gourmands’

See that? It’s from an ad at a bus stop in Paris. The French have gone further than the Americans, creating a fast food hamburger topped with bacon, cheese, and French fries. Just so you know.

Anyway, Roberto sends along this delicious rant against the Michelin guides from English food critic A.A. Gill. The bitter heart of the matter:

But still, Michelin has launched in a number of foreign countries. And though it claims its standards are universal and unimpeachable, it proves how Francophile and bloated and snobbish the whole business really is and that, far from being a lingua franca, the food on our plate is as varied as any other aspect of a national culture. For instance, Italy has absurdly few three-star restaurants, apparently because the criteria of complexity and presentation aren’t up to Michelin—French—standards, and the marvelously rich and varied curries of India plainly seem to baffle the guide. The city with the most stars is Tokyo, but then, many of its restaurants have barely a handful of chairs, and most benefit from the Gallic reverence for O.C.D. saucing and solitary boy’s knife skills. In both London and New York, the guide appears to be wholly out of touch with the way people actually eat, still being most comfortable rewarding fat, conservative, fussy rooms that use expensive ingredients with ingratiating pomp to serve glossy plutocrats and their speechless rental dates.

For all the love of food I tender, I can only think of two times I’ve been to restaurants likely to rate Michelin stars. I’m just not that interested, or, to be more precise, I’m not interested enough to pay Michelin-starred prices for the food. To my taste, that generous bowl of Alsatian choucroute piled high with ham and sausages was perfectly delightful — as is a platter of well-made enchiladas con mole, or a flawless, vinegary, peppery Thai green papaya salad. Here in France, I’m entirely content to go to brasseries and bistros and eat la cuisine grandmere. That’s how Julie and I cook, and that’s how we prefer to eat, not out of any particular moral or aesthetic stance, but because good food, aside from tasting delicious, ought to carry with it the promise of creating moments of emotional intimacy, of framing love and fidelity and friendship. For example, Julie and I talk from time to time about the night I made a gigot a sept heures (leg of lamb slowly roasted in wine and herbs) for some guests, and the lamb was so inexpressibly tender that it heightened the pleasure we had with our friends at the table, as the tenderness of our friendship heightened in our imaginations the taste of the lamb. I find it difficult to separate the taste of that food from its milieu — our table at home, those particular friends — and don’t see the need to.

To clarify, an indifference to the quality of food and its preparation is a fault. But to make it the only thing is also a fault. Who wants to eat in a museum or a temple?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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